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Jakarta Post

Building an equal partnership of mutual respect

Jakarta   /   Wed, March 11, 2020   /   10:14 am
Building an equal partnership of mutual respect President Joko Widodo (right) accompanied by First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo (second left) and Dutch King Willem Alexander (second right) accompanied by Queen Maxima planting trees during a state visit to Bogor Palace, West Java, Tuesday (10/3/2020). (Antara/Sigid Kurniawan)

“The ongoing global economic and geopolitical volatility will not keep Indonesia and the Netherlands from advancing their long-standing cooperation” — that may be the right tone to begin the narrative on the state visit of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima to Indonesia.

On Tuesday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo greeted the Dutch king and queen at Bogor Palace in West Java.

The visit sends the clear message that the two countries aspire to advance their ties going forward. It will surely create a new momentum for the Indonesian-Dutch partnership. The visit also instils not only increased confidence of Dutch investment in Indonesia but also strategic trust in the long run.

The visit produces numerous concrete deliverables in various sectors at the government-to-government as well as the business-to-business level. These include eight government initiatives in important sectors such as sustainable palm oil production, cooperation on infectious diseases control, waste management, the circular economy, water management, aviation cooperation, capacity-building of healthcare professionals, as well as women, peace and security.

On the business side, the king’s 190-strong business delegation has met with hundreds of Indonesian business counterparts and concluded investment and business deals amounting to US$1 billion. These include agreements on dairy products, oil and gas, agriculture, infrastructure and renewable energy.

However, these achievements did not come overnight. In fact, in the last seven decades, both sides have taken significant steps to strengthen bilateral ties.

I was the Indonesian ambassador in The Hague in 2013, when Indonesia and the Netherlands signed a joint declaration on a comprehensive partnership that laid out the modalities for concrete cooperation. This was an important building block to mature our bilateral cooperation into what we have today and what we will harvest tomorrow.

After more than 70 years, it is undeniable that the bond between the two countries has had its share of challenges. While we cannot deny the past of Indonesia-Netherlands relations, we can choose to fully capitalize on the potential of future cooperation for the benefit of both nations.

Read also: A time to remember

Therefore, the goal for our shared future must be clear, which is pursuing a forward-looking partnership that really benefits both countries and peoples.

There are three things that the two countries should advance together to attain common goals for a solid and mutually beneficial partnership.

First and fundamentally, both countries must remain committed to the common values of mutual respect and principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Second, the Indonesian-Dutch partnership must produce long-term and concrete economic benefits for our two peoples.

The Netherlands is and should continue to be Indonesia’s strategic partner for trade and investment. In 2019, the Netherlands was Indonesia’s largest investment partner in the European region, the second-largest trading partner and the fourth-largest tourism partner.

Our political solidarity in furthering the common cause of sustainability is also strong. In promoting sustainable palm oil in Europe, for instance, it is evident that we can rely on the Netherlands as our friend. Last year, together with my colleague, Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and cooperation development, we signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on joint production of sustainable palm oil in New York, the United States. King Willem-Alexander’s current visit has also brought an impetus toward the progression of sustainable production of palm oil through the conclusion of a technical arrangement that will focus on capacity-building for Indonesian smallholder farmers.

This is a good reflection of how trust is an important pillar of bilateral cooperation, as also exemplified through the Netherlands’ support in the establishment of the Indonesia-European Union Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade in 2016.

Third, Indonesia and the Netherlands must continue to promote the universal common values of multilateralism, diplomacy and democracy, promoting habits of dialogue and peaceful dispute settlement to tackle shared global challenges amid rising tensions, intolerance and unilateralism.

Peacekeeping and counterterrorism are among our signature areas of collaboration on the world stage.

Indonesia and the Netherlands were among the core countries facilitating and supporting the Untied Nations' secretary-general’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative to rally member states and other crucial stakeholders to fulfil their obligation in strengthening UN peacekeeping operations.

Both nations also need to stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

Deepening the promotion of democracy, pluralism and tolerance are other important areas of cooperation to further develop. The Bali Democracy Forum could become the platform to jointly advance these shared values.

Women, peace and security shall be another hallmark of our bilateral cooperation. The partnership aspires to deepen the capacity of women to promote peace and security, in line with the formation of the ASEAN Women Mediators Network and the Afghanistan-Indonesia Women Network last March.

Read also: King Willem-Alexander, please recognize Indonesia’s Independence Day

In conclusion, another historical step was taken with the king of the Netherlands’ visit to Indonesia, in the very year when Indonesia celebrates its 75th year of independence.

The history binding our two countries together is not an easy one. This dark period should not be repeated in the future.

King Alexander stated that “today, we warmly congratulate the people of Indonesia as you celebrate 75 years of independence. The past cannot be erased and will have to be acknowledged by each generation in turn.” King Alexander also expressed his regret and apologized for excessive violence on the part of the Dutch in those years.

Let us together build a better and stronger relationship, one that is based on mutual respect and mutual interests.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.